A Camp Near the Eastern Side of Mount Hermon, Israel: October 1973

“The steed is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory is the Lord’s.” — Proverbs 21:31

Standing on a rise, Menashe read the last line of the verse with full fervor before closing his Tanakh.

A troupe of 50 IDF soldiers were in formation before him. Asher, eyes downcast, stood in the third row. We are going to fight the battle. God can’t take the credit. He pursed his lips.

His brothers-in-arms, Yosef, Eli, and Kaleb, stood next to him, their eyes cast heavenward. At the end of Menashe’s reading, the soldiers shifted their gaze to him. Steadfast and sure, they nodded at their senior officer before turning their eyes to the green and yellow Golani Brigade flag fluttering in the breeze behind him.

“15 days.” Menashe jutted his chin. “15 days since the Syrians captured Mount Hermon and we failed miserably to take it back. We must reclaim it before it’s too late!”

Hands tightly crossed behind his back, he inched closer. “Our Ramatkal met with Minister Dayan recently, and he’s prioritized this mission. We are outnumbered, fighting enemy forces from not one, not two, but eleven countries. One David against many Goliaths. The last thing I want my soldiers to be is afraid.” His voice rose by a few decibels. “They attacked us during Yom Kippur. Now we have to strike them where it hurts.” He thundered, “Do you understand?”

They thrust out their chests and clicked their heels, mouths wide like bullhorns. “Yes, sir!”

“Do you understand?” He repeated his words even louder.

“Yes, sir!” the soldiers roared yet again.

“Good!” His voice reverberated off their helmets. “HaShem be with you!”

The troupe split into teams and headed toward the mountains as per their instructions.


“Yosef,” Asher called out while they trudged over the mountain. He dug out a sealed envelope from his combat vest and carefully placed it inside his own helmet before putting it on.

Has ve halila, if something happens to me, you know what to do. Hand the letter to my family.” Asher gulped. “Ask them to bury me next to Abba.”

Eli threw his arm around Asher’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. HaShem will keep us safe.”

With doubt in his voice, Asher muttered, “Hope He does not forget us.” Since his youth, he had a love-hate relationship with God. Despite Asher’s incessant prayers, cancer had taken his abba from him two years earlier, and his faith wavered. He considered himself Jewish by ethnicity and culture, rather than by faith, which oscillated somewhere between belief and atheism.

Reaching the mountain ridge, the four soldiers unslung their rifles, took position, and fanned out side by side. The sun blazed in their eyes as each looked left, then right. Not a soul was in sight.

“Didn’t our radio mention that reinforcements would be waiting for us?” Kaleb, who was in charge of the detail, slightly tipped his head down and glanced at his timepiece. “They should have already been here by now.”

“What’s that?” Asher pointed, his face tightening.

A makeshift flagpole stood proudly in the distance. Fluttering from the top of the pole was a combination of red, white, and black.

“Why is the Syrian flag here?” Eli rubbed his chin. “Something is amiss.”

Kaleb examined the map in his hand and a vein throbbed on his forehead. “Damn it, I read the map wrong. We were supposed to head the other way.”

As Asher and Yosef looked at each other, their faces blanched.

The soldiers heard the sounds of an artillery strike happening nearby. A flush of adrenaline tingled through their bodies. The blasts were closer than they seemed.

“Let’s go back.” Yosef took short, quick breaths. “Now!”

But it was too late.

A shell landed nearby with a deafening blast, followed by a cloud of thick, black smoke.


Asher slowly opened his eyes and found himself lying on his back. The last thing he recalled before blacking out was being blown away by the shock wave while his brothers yelled. His hands and legs were covered with minor cuts from falling on the rocks, and his uniform was shredded on one side. Since he had been standing far away from the explosion area, unlike the others, he wasn’t badly hurt, except for his right knee, bruised and bleeding. He coughed and choked, wiping the dust off his face as a pang shot down his shin.

His eyes darted in the desperate hope of finding the others. “Yossi!” He panted. “Eli…Kaleb…where are you?”

It was only when the stench of burnt flesh invaded his nostrils that he turned around to find three bloodied corpses. He crawled toward them, the pain in his knee sending tremors throughout his body, making him want to lie down and quit.

Despite the disfigured faces and mangled bodies, he recognized his three brothers. He curled up like a child and wailed aloud, covering his face with his hands.

Just a short time ago, he was walking alongside them, but now…

Minutes passed. Thirst compelled him to fumble for his canteen. With trembling hands, he drank some water and washed the accumulated dust and debris from his eyes. Resting his head on the ground and looking at the sky, Asher gritted his teeth in fury, not just at the enemies who had struck, but also at the invisible force he nearly believed in.

“God, do you hear me?” He clenched his fists and cried. A river of tears streamed down his cheeks. “You failed us. You fucking failed us!”

Enraged by the lack of divine sympathy, he grabbed his rifle and fired a shot toward the sky. “How could you let this happen? Do you even exist?” Asher bawled. “Are you there? Answer me!” Yet another bullet raced into the sky.

He struggled to stand as he dropped his rifle to the ground, knees wobbling. Through blurry eyes, he saw two soldiers walking toward him from a distance. Perhaps the sound of the gunfire had alerted them. As they approached, he noticed their uniforms were not the usual olive greens, rather faded khakis.


A chill ran down Asher’s spine.

Coming closer, the Syrian soldier motioned with his rifle, ordering him to get down.

Asher knelt with difficulty, his hands behind his head.

“Look, Farid.” The soldier called to his compatriot and pointed to Asher. He gave him a condescending stare, tightening his jaw. “This Zionist doesn’t have a large nose like the ones in our newspaper cartoons.”

“Large nose or small, they are all the same.” Farid crinkled his own nose in scorn, spitting on the earth at Asher’s feet. “Parasites!”

“It looks like your blood is boiling for retribution.” The soldier smirked. “Go on, he’s all yours. Yalla, finish him and make our fatherland proud.”

Farid, his face burning with fury, raised his rifle and aimed.

Asher closed his eyes, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Tendons stood out in his neck as his pulse raced. He gripped the sides of his vest, his knuckles turning white. A stream of thoughts ran through his mind—his childhood, his family, his brothers at war, and his gullibility in trusting a nonexistent god. Ready to die, he involuntarily began reciting the Shema, by sheer instinct rather than faith.

Seconds later, a gunshot rang out.

Asher opened his eyes at once, incredulous that he was alive.

Farid fell to the ground with a loud thud, a bullet hole in his forehead.

An Israeli soldier rose from behind a nearby bush and turned his rifle toward the other Syrian, who tried to bring his rifle around in time but failed to open fire.

Asher’s eyes bulged and his breath rasped. The sound of his heartbeat thrashed in his ears. He quickly drew his knife out and thrust it into the Syrian’s leg.

The two grappled, rolling on the dusty ground. Nostrils flaring and temples throbbing, Asher stabbed the belligerent soldier’s chest. Rivulets of crimson squirted.

He raised his knife and plunged it in again as his muscles quivered and heat flushed through his body.

The Syrian’s face turned pale and he gasped for breath before he fell to the ground.

The Israeli soldier gave Asher a hand and lifted him. “I am Uriel.”

“I—” Asher shook his head. “I looked death straight in the eye.”

Uriel pulled out his knife and pointed it toward Asher, motioning him to sit down. He made a cut in Asher’s uniform before washing his bloodied knee with water from his canteen. He then took a cloth from his vest and dressed the wound.

“Which unit are you from?” Asher felt a sense of relief in his chest.

“You’re tired. First, drink some water.” Uriel brushed his question aside and poured water into his mouth.

“Had you been a few seconds late—” The color drained from Asher’s face. He feebly pointed to Farid’s corpse. “I would be lying there instead of him.”

“Don’t be afraid.” Uriel gave him a comforting embrace. “I’ve got your back.”

Asher hugged him tightly in return, tears of joy filling his eyes. His lips parted slightly. “Come, let’s head to the other end of the mountain.”

“Sorry, I am being called elsewhere.” Uriel broke the hug and stepped back.

“What if the Syrians strike again?” Asher rubbed the back of his neck.

“Never worry, my friend. Help and support will come from above.” Uriel smiled before bidding Asher goodbye. He rushed, proceeding to leave the ridge.

Asher noticed Uriel’s canteen lying on the ground. He picked it up and turned back, only to find that Uriel had already left.

He took his rucksack and headed east. Interrupted by a sound, he caught sight of what appeared to be a swarm of bees.

One by one, a battalion of IDF paratroopers slowly descended, making a smooth landing. Help came from above, literally.

A paratrooper walked toward Asher. “We launched an attack half an hour ago. The Syrians have already started to retreat.” He punched his fist in the air. “Mount Hermon is ours now. Baruch HaShem!

Not believing his ears, Asher clenched his hands above his head, overwhelmed by relief. His gaze settled on the Syrian flagpole over the paratrooper’s shoulder. There was one thing left to do.

Asher limped and stumbled to the makeshift flagpole and climbed it, his body on the verge of succumbing to fatigue. Clutching the Syrian flag, he tore it down with his knife and tossed it to the ground.

He slid down and pulled out the flag of Israel from his rucksack and unfolded it before climbing again. He tied the flag to the pole with shaking hands, careful not to let the blood from his wounds ruin it.

Sunrays fell on the flag, illuminating the blue Star of David in all its glory against the sky.

Asher climbed down the pole and looked upward to the flag. “Am Yisrael Chai!” He shouted his lungs out until his throat was parched, as the birds nearby beat their wings.

The paratroopers stilled and saluted, their chests out with pride. The sun slowly went down as the sky turned flaming orange.


It was almost nightfall by the time the soldiers returned to their camps at the bottom of the mountain.

A fellow soldier escorted Asher to meet Menashe under a tent.

Menashe patted him on the back. “Asher, you are a relentless fighter.” He then hung his head. “I just heard what happened to the others in your group. Aleihem hashalom.

“I can’t believe they are gone.” Asher let out a deep, pained sigh and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to make it out alive, but all thanks to Uriel—if not for him, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you right now.”

“Uriel?” Menashe furrowed his brows. “Who’s that?”

“One of ours.” Asher clarified. “He saved me from the Syrians.”

Menashe pulled out a pen and notepad from his pocket and started jotting something down. He tilted his head to the side. “I don’t recognize the name. How did he look?”

“He was tall…around six feet…olive-skinned…black hair…brown eyes…thick brows…a mark on his left cheek…” Asher tried his best to recall the image of the man who saved him. He went on to give a few more definitive details of his profile, as Menashe noted them.

“I’ll be right back.” Menashe glanced at his notepad and left the tent.


40 minutes later, Menashe returned.

“I think you’re mistaken.” He flashed a concerned look at Asher. “I ran a thorough check with the adjutant as well as my fellow officers. None of them know anyone who fought today with the name or surname ‘Uriel.’ And the details you gave don’t match the profiles of the other soldiers.”

Asher jerked his head and widened his eyes. “Are you…sure?” His heartbeat raced and a sudden coldness hit him at the core. He was nearly at a loss for words.

“100 percent.” Menashe nodded with certainty.

“No…no.” Asher took a breath and stumbled out of the tent, a lump growing in his throat. He fell on his knees and bowed his head. He then looked at the starry night sky, his eyes welling up with tears.